A refugee child writes on a blackboard in a Temporary Learning Space and Children Protection supported by UNICEF in Cameroon, October 21, 2015. Photo UNICEF / Froutan
About 2 million children in the DRC are malnourished. Measles epidemics, cholera and malaria continue to threaten their survival, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Tuesday, UNICEF launched a humanitarian appeal for 2.8 billion US dollars to 43 million children in the world including those from DRC living in humanitarian crisis situations.
Nyakakoba is a small village located 30 km from Walungu, at the end of a bad dirt road, almost impassable in the rainy season. It is the most remote town in the health area. In the ambulatory therapeutic nutrition unit (UNTA) of the only health center, Julienne Nzigiri, 30, mother of 6 children, brings her youngest son, Selemani, who is 13 months suffering from malnutrition.
Two days earlier, Emmanuel, another son of Julienne, had been hospitalized for severe acute malnutrition in the general hospital of Walungu. 4 years old, he measured 87 cm, weighing only 8.7 kg, and showed advanced symptoms of kwashiorkor. Between one and four years of age, all of Julienne’s sons were hospitalized after showing severe signs of malnutrition. Yet their mother does not believe that the problem of children is linked to lack of food or poor diet. According to her, all her sons suffer the same curse. She may prepare food for them, or they refuse to eat, or they do not keep the food they eat. Strangely, Julienne claims that the three girls are spared from this curse.
As bad as it may sound, if Julienne is far from an isolated case in rural communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where parents seem unaware of malnutrition, they assimilate to illness or witchcraft.
South Kivu province seems particularly affected by chronic malnutrition affecting 53% of children, 10% more than the national average, says UNICEF, the specialized United Nations agency for children’s issues.
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